Interior Secy Salazar won't end drilling ban in eastern Gulf

The following information was obtained via conference call with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Director of Bureau of Ocean Energy, Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) Michael Bromwich.

In a stunning reversal of October’s decision allowing deep water offshore exploration in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic seaboard, citing safety concerns, “lack of studies” and federal weaknesses in regulation, Secretary Salazar announced he is rescinding that decision.

He will however, still honor Shell’s pending lease in the Beaufort Sea in Alaska but only after studies on safety and environmental issues are satisfied. No new permits will be issued in Alaska until more studies are completed. This is expected to push Shell’s plans back at least a year or more.

This new moratorium, which will remain in effect for at least seven years, comes as a blow not only to oil companies but to those whom they employ and all the ancillary companies involved in oil drilling; such as those who provide food, equipment and transportation to the rigs.

Mr. Salazar stated there are 29 million acres of leased, but not entirely in use, oil fields in the Gulf at this point so “it won’t have that much of an impact.”

Drilling will still be allowed in the western and central Gulf under the safeguards put in place after the BP spill.

“As a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill we learned a number of lessons,” the interior secretary said Wednesday afternoon, “most importantly that we need to proceed with caution and focus on creating a more stringent regulatory regime.”

Mr. Salazar stated the US Geological Survey would be called in to conduct seismic studies of the areas under moratorium to ensure the areas are safe geologically.

Congress has opposed drilling for years off the Atlantic seaboard and eastern Gulf even though many legislators in those areas have been pushing for the allowance of drilling, which would create thousands of jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Mr. Salazar ended the call by saying Mr. Obama hopes in a bipartisan nature he can work with Congress to come up with an energy package he is satisfied with to reduce our foreign oil dependence and then perhaps the moratorium can be lifted.

Here is a fact sheet just released and maps of the Alaska area and US Continental Shelf area leases.

Crossposted at Conservative Outlooks